Marriage and Family

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) – Genesis 2:18-24; Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16 or 10:2-12. This series usually appears each Wednesday.


Photography © by Andy Coan

The Beatles wrote a song that was the sensation of 1967, “All you need is love.”  This the same point made a few years earlier by an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church.

Gadium et Spes 24, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, says this: God is Trinity, a communion of persons who pour themselves out in love to one another from all eternity.  If we human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, then we are clearly designed for love.  In fact, we really can’t find ourselves without giving ourselves in love sincerely and completely.

That’s also the central point of this Sunday’s readings.  Genesis 2 shows Adam in paradise, surrounded by splendor and comfort, but nevertheless unfulfilled.  God creates the animals as companions.  He can enjoy their company and be their loving master.  But he cannot have communion, true fellowship, with them.

So God fashions woman from his own flesh.  When he wakes up and sees her, he is thrilled.  In every way, she is a perfect fit–in body, soul, and spirit.  She complements and completes him.  But she is not created as a commodity for his use, much less a disposable one to be used and discarded.  The love that makes us like God is a communion that is the fruit not of taking, but of giving.  And it is not about partial giving, but giving of one’s entire self.

Now one of the characteristics of human beings is that we have a future.  Total self-giving means giving ourselves not only in the present moment, but giving our entire future as well.  For this reason, the relationship of authentic marriage founded on true love, has to be “till death do us part.”  This is why Jesus, in this Sunday’s gospel, is so uncompromising on this point, and why the Catholic Church to this day maintains the Lord’s unpopular position against divorce and remarriage.

Ah, but what about that “Catholic Divorce” known as annulment?  A decree of nullity is not “Catholic divorce.”  Divorce means the splitting apart of those who have become one body and one spirit.  But what makes a man and woman one flesh and one spirit is not a ceremony presided over by judge or priest.  It is the sincere gift of self on the part of both parties that is free, total, exclusive, permanent, and open to a further act of self-giving love called parenthood.  A decree of nullity means that, after an extensive investigation by Church authorities, it has been discovered that despite the ceremony, something essential was lacking in the gift of self of one or both of the spouses and therefore the bond was not forged.

It could be that one or the other of the spouses did not intend this union to be “till death do us part,” but rather “till it becomes inconvenient.”  Or it could also be because one or the other never intended to accept children lovingly from God and planned from the outset to use every means to thwart such fruitfulness.  Such an arrangement is not marriage, in the biblical and Catholic meaning of the term, despite what society thinks.

But here’s another question – If we are made for love, and Adam was incomplete until he found fulfillment in marriage, then what does that say about those who never marry?  Are they doomed to unhappiness and a life that is not fully human?

Far from it.  The Lord Jesus was the perfect man and, Da Vinci Code fantasy aside, was never married.  He poured himself out in suffering love “till death do us part.”

Many follow in his footsteps in consecrated celibacy.  Others follow in his footsteps in a more hidden way, without canonical vows, but quietly and tirelessly giving of themselves to family, friends, patients, clients, and those in need who come to them.

The Beatles were right.  Love is all you need.  But, though God created marital intimacy and called it good, the essence of love is not romance but rather self-giving.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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